App Inventor Workshop in Doha, Qatar

 

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Photo Credit: Hamda

On March 7, 2017, I was invited to speak to students and teachers at the UNESCO YouthMobile event in Doha Qatar. YouthMobile was part of TumuhaTEC’s Digital Youth Festival at QITCOM 2017, Qatar’s biggest digital Expo. Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and Communication and Ministry of Education created the Youth Festival to introduce students ages 8 and up to innovative digital technologies and provide an interactive space for exploration.

In addition to a series of inspiring Tech Talks center stage (which included 15 year old serial inventor Fatima Al Kaabi) students engaged in hands-on activities throughout the hall including: building Lego robots, testing the capabilities of 3-D printers, collaborating in the digital productions, racing remote control maker cars, and designing mobile apps with MIT App Inventor.

Noticeably present were zones for “girls in tech” to welcome and encourage girls to participate in various digital opportunities both on site and in society. Mentors from the newly formed group, Arab Women in Computing were present to help demonstrate and teach mobile app development with App Inventor. Instruction took place in both English and Arabic. My favorite app that a group of girls created had a Harry Potter theme.

Teachers also had their own opportunity to learn, play and discover new digital tools in the Educator Empowerment zone.

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Photo Credit: Fatima Al Kaabi

 

New App Inventor Curriculum for SF Middle Schools

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-10-14-52-amThe San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is making great strides in rapidly adding computer science courses to the curriculum in public middle schools and high schools, and App Inventor is a vital part of it.  SFUSD’s Bryan Twarek and Andrew Rothman have designed an on-line middle school curriculum which combines video and other lessons from appinventor.org, Mobile-CSP.org, appinventor.mit.edu, and a number of other venues, and breaks lessons down into 50 minute classroom chunks. The well-organized site is being used this fall in SF middle schools. Check it out and contact Bryan (twarekb@sfusd.edu) to get access to the teacher side of it.

The middle school curriculum is part of SFUSD’s Computer Science for All Students in SF effort. The goal is to make real computer science– with coding and problem solving– part of the curriculum throughout the grade levels, and to help broaden participation in Tech, as this excerpt from their site attests:

By beginning in the earliest grades and with all children, we will normalize a discipline that has been long dominated by a selective group of the population.

SFUSD teachers are also teaching some of the first AP High School Computer Science Principles (CSP) courses on the West Coast, an effort led by SFUSD’s Jennie Lyons.

The Democratize Computing Lab at the University of San Francisco is  partnering with the school district in these efforts. Led by my colleague Alark Joshi and I, we provide materials and advice on curriculum development, offer summer training workshops for high school  teachers, and facilitate a program whereby USF students in the Democratize Computing Lab assist teachers at schools sites each semester.

Dave Wolber

App Inventor Teacher Workshop this Summer in SF!

The University of San Francisco and AppInventor.org will host an App Inventor teacher twitter-usftag-500x500workshop and follow-up activities during the summer of 2015. The workshop will take place over four days, June 29-July 2, 2015, 10 am to 3 pm each day, at the University of San Francisco. The workshop is funded by USF and the Google CS4HS program. You can apply at b​it.ly/usfWorkshop.

What
Learn App Inventor coding and how to teach it in a 4­-day teacher development workshop funded by Google and USF. Coding apps for phones and tablets is a fantastic way to learn computer science and computational thinking! The workshop is free. If you can commit to teaching in 2015-­2016, you may also be eligible for a $1000 stipend!

Who
Teachers from all levels are welcome to participate. No prior coding experience is required. The workshop will start at the beginning with both coding and the App Inventor language, and will focus on how to teach the material to beginners. The workshop will be taught by USF Professor Alark Joshi and USF Professor and App Inventor author David Wolber.

Where
University of San Francisco Campus, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Details
appinventororgThe workshop will prepare you for teaching either a complete programming course or a coding module in an existing course. The topics and material discussed will be appropriate for many programming courses and levels, including the High School Computer Science Principles (CSP) curriculum that is being piloted as a new AP course. You will be introduced to two popular existing on­line courses, Mobile CSP (m​obile­-csp.org)​ and Professor Wolber’s App Inventor Course­-in­-a­-Box (a​ppinventor.org)​.

Community of Practice
Our goal is to foster the community of App Inventor teachers in the Bay Area. We will offer two ways to continue after the workshop: (1) We’ll provide three weeks of follow­-up guidance after the workshop (July 6­-24, 2015) including once­-a­-week  meetups as you continue with the Mobile CSP on-­line course, and (2) During the school year, we have funds for a limited number of USF students, experienced in App Inventor programming, to assist you in the classroom. If you can commit to teaching App Inventor in 2015­-16, you may be eligible for a $1000 stipend.

Application
Please apply for the workshop at b​it.ly/usfWorkshop. ​Slots for the workshop are limited, but we will accommodate as many teachers as we can.

ai2coverApp Inventor 2: Create your own Android Apps is now available in early-release form from O’Reilly. The early-release gives you discounted access to the book while the authors are making final edits. You receive the preview version now, then all significant updates as well as the final version.

Early-Release Book Now Available!

I wrote the book along with three of the original creators of App Inventor: MIT Professor Hal Abelson, Mills Professor and Google Engineer Ellen Spertus and Google’s Liz Looney. The book is designed for absolute beginners and is also useful for programmers looking to add App Inventor to their programming arsenal.

The book is used in many K-12 and University courses. Check out the course-in-a-box to see how the chapters fit in to a course outline.

Super-Teacher Kelly Powers Teaching High schoolers!

Want to see a successful STEM program in action? Check out this video of Kelly Powers, the Mass. STEM teacher of the year, teaching students to be creative, solve problems, and build their thinking skills, all through building apps with App Inventor. Congratulations Kelly!

 

Jeff Gray is Transforming Education in Alabama

University of Alabama professor Jeff Gray is working to develop new computer science AP curriculum for Alabama high school students based on App Inventor and mobile programming. Check out this video from ABC news:Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 11.45.05 AM

Learn App Inventor with Video Tutorials

App Inventor Book available at Amazon

Check out appinventor.org/projects. I’ve added video screencast lessons and other teaching materials to complement the original App Inventor tutorials.  These are the tutorials  originally written for the App Inventor site and then refined for the book App Inventor: Create your own Android Apps (which I co-authored with App Inventor creators Hal Abelson, Ellen Spertus, and Liz Looney). I’ve also added some new video tutorials not found in the book, one for an arcade shooting game (see above) and one for a note-taking app.

The video is best watched full screen HD, and each tutorial is split into 5 minute portions.

 

App Inventor students, professors, and Googlers discuss their experience

Angelo Taylor is a University of San Francisco student who took my App Inventor course last year. He has created this video about our App Inventor course. Great work Angelo!

Android Games Built by Middle School Students at BAYCAT SF


App Inventor was used in the summer program BAYCAT–The Bay View- Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology in San Francisco.  In just a few weeks, these students learned the basics of app building and created a game. One is a fashion app where you can drag clothes into a virtual closet. Another lets you grab for dollars before the police officer snatches you. Another lets you skateboard while boulders fall from the sky, while two others are fun soccer games. The students learned some complex programming, with if-else blocks, timer events, and the like, and they also had to work with Photoshop and other tools to build their user interfaces. Impressive work!

Congrats to the students and to their wonderful volunteer instructor, USF grad student Roderick Lisam.

Google: The Time is Ripe to Flood Schools with Android Devices

I just gave an App Inventor workshop at the CS4HS seminar at the University of Illinois in Chicago– 30 high school teachers from the Chicago area were hosted by UIC professor Dale Reed and sponsored by Google.

One thing I learned is that the kids of Chicago are in good hands, at least the ones lucky enough to learn from these  teachers.

The other thing I learned is that App Inventor is striking a chord with high school teachers. Many have been teaching Java, at least for Advance Placement (AP) courses and they know how few students thrive with that as a beginning language. They see how visual blocks languages like App Inventor and Scratch can work for a much larger subset of the population. They also see the potential for App Inventor to leverage the students’ intense fascination with the tiny computing devices they carry around  in their pockets.

The BIG QUESTION, however, the first one I hear from every high school and university teacher, is

WHERE CAN I GET SOME PHONES?

How can I teach App Inventor if only a few of my students have Android devices?

One answer is that you can develop apps without a phone, using the Android emulator that comes with the free App Inventor software.  If you can scrape together a few phones for your class, or leverage those that your students bring, the emulator-based solution is workable and one I encourage teachers to take.

But there is a much better solution, one with much broader implications, but one which would require some great vision by the folks at Google and perhaps a T-Mobile.  The solution involves giving every student who signs up for  a high school Computing 1 course a device –phone or tablet.  Let them live with it and program it as part of their life. The number of citizens with the ability to create technology would explode explode! The students will learn what software is, they’ll learn problem-solving and logic, and they’ll learn entrepreneurship– how to formulate ideas and create things of use to society.

We’re not talking incremental change, but historical– and at a time when everyone from the Labor Bureau to the White House has identified a need for more programming-savvy citizens.

Why Google? Couldn’t it be some other deep-pocketed organization?

Yes, but right at this moment in history Google has a motive that can make it work. This scheme can win them the multi-billion dollar battle between Android and the iPhone. App Inventor only works for Android and there’s not yet an iPhone equivalent that is even close. This will change, soon, but App Inventor has the momentum, and so does Android in terms of casual “end-user” programming of mobile devices. Partner with a service-provider like T-Mobile, give the high school students a free device and a semester or two of free service, and suddenly you’ve got thousands of young new clients buying Android devices and service for the next 80 years.